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Poverty in the Philippines
As of 2015, 22 million Filipinos are still living in the depths of poverty. That equates to one-fifth of the population. Poverty presents itself in a vicious cycle affecting mainly the uneducated population who tend to live in large family units. These family units usually have only one head of the household who provides income for the entire family.

The Filipino government is actively trying to speed up its poverty reduction plan. Their long-term goal is to be able to provide more economic prospects, which in turn would help many of their citizens earn a higher and more stable income. A report by the World Bank shows how this economic growth helped decline the rate of poverty. Poverty in the Philippines dropped by 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015.

Key Programs to Help Reduce Poverty in the Philippines

Some factors that resulted in the drop in poverty are the expansion of jobs outside the agriculture sector, government transfers and getting qualified Filipinos to help through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. This particular program which is a government cash-handout project has helped reduce poverty by 25 percent.

Most of the Philippines are hit with massive typhoons and still have an armed conflict. These scenarios are a real struggle to the everyday worker who, even after a long day, still goes back home poor. Due to these factors, many citizens end up leaving behind farm work and go find work in manufacturing hubs in the urban areas of the country. These jobs outside the agricultural dome have accounted for two-thirds of the progress in reducing poverty in the Philippines.

One of the key strategies to help bring down poverty in the Philippines is providing birth control to the poor. In a radical move for the heavily populated Catholic country, the President made readily available birth control to nearly 6 million women who cannot afford it.

Providing birth control is a powerful tool for families who now have full control over family planning. The hope is by giving the women and family units more control, they will have fewer children. This, in turn, will mean that families can provide more responsibly.  This new policy will help the government reach its goal of reducing poverty by 13 percent by 2022.

The current Filipino population is at 104 million and continues to rise at an alarming rate of 1.7 percent each year. This new law will enable families to control how many children they want. It will also hopefully take down the population rate to 1.4 percent each year once the law is fully executed.

Government Hopeful About Achieving its Aim

Even though the Philippines have worked hard in the past to reduce their poverty and keep up with their neighbors China, Vietnam and Indonesia, they still have a long way to go. Marak K. Warwick of The World Bank believes that with a solid foundation there is a reason to be optimistic that the Philippines can achieve their goal.

The goal for the Philippine government is to create more jobs, improve productivity, invest in health and nutrition while focusing on reducing poverty. If the government is able to execute its plans successfully, it is capable of reducing poverty in the Philippines by 13 to 15 percent by 2022.

-Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

OVERPOPULATION IN UGANDA

Overpopulation is often one of the major causes of poverty. A lack of educational resources along with high death rates often go hand in hand with higher birth rates, resulting in large booms in population growth. The United Nations predicted that the poorest countries in the world are the biggest contributors to population growth. Uganda is one of the poorest developing countries in the world. There are many problems associated with overpopulation In Uganda.

High Fertility Rates

The poorest developing countries are usually the ones with the highest fertility rates and the ones with the least amount of resources to support their population growth. It has been proven that fertility rates in African nations are higher than in Western nations. One of the problems is that more developed nations are the ones that consume most of the resources, leaving the least possible amount to support the populations in African nations.

In addition to this, the lack of sexual education and family planning is a major cause of overpopulation in this region. Only 20 percent of Uganda’s women have access to contraception. Women in Uganda have an average of 7 children, which is higher the African average of 5.1 but more than double that of the global average of 2.7. Ugandan government’s lack of responsibility in improving family planning is a major reason for the country’s exponential population growth.

Population Increases

Presently there are 27.7 million people living in Uganda. By 2025, this number is estimated to double to 56 million people, making Uganda the nation with the world’s biggest population growth (at a rate of 3.3 percent). This kind of growth definitely continues to make resources more scarce in this region of the world. With already 19.5 percent of Uganda’s population living in poverty, efforts to decrease poverty rates will fail unless measures are taken.

As much as 78 percent of the population in Uganda are under the age of 30. Experts say that such big population will be a burden to the economy unless it is transformed into a working force. One major reason for the vast increase in the youth population was a need for family security, often to help with labor. There is minimal industrialization in many developing countries, so people have kids in order to have more help on the farm.

Unemployment and Overpopulation

Currently, 83 percent of young people have no formal employment. This is partly due to low economic growth, slow labor markets, high population growth rates, the rigid education system, rural-urban migration and limited access to capital. This boom in population growth is bound to put pressure on the economy by straining resources if the high birth rates are not controlled.

The major problem of Uganda’s young population is an increasing dependency burden at the household level with a related increase in demand for social services like health and education, which are not growing at the same pace as its population.  For example, classrooms in public schools are overcrowded due to growth in school populations. One cause for the growth in the population has been an increase in unwanted births, leading back to the idea that family planning is an essential part of reducing overpopulation in Uganda.

Solutions to Overpopulation in Uganda

There are many possible solutions to overcoming the overpopulation crisis in Uganda. Experts highlight the need for a long-term plan that focuses on the role of the family, the government, the private sector and society in helping young people to become productive. By reducing the problems with overpopulation in Uganda, the economy will benefit through taxes and more sustained production of goods and services.

Family planning services would reduce fertility levels and increase the proportion of employed adults to young dependents.  Furthermore, promoting family planning by educating men and women about contraception will play a key role in reducing fertility rates. A reduction in “fertility was achieved in the West over the course of a century of female education, national family planning services and the introduction of job opportunities for women.” Therefore, it is important to empower women by giving them access to reproductive health services as well as better economic options. The United Nations aims to tackle this issue by running microcredit projects to turn young women into advocates for reproductive health.

Another solution is government incentives. Governments must promote responsible parenthood and limit subsidies to the first two children unless the family is living in poverty. This can also be accomplished by promoting child spacing and having fewer children. In certain urban regions of the country, there are ads showing happy couples with just one or two children.

Cutting exponential population growth will give Uganda’s natural resources a higher chance of supporting the human burden. Government intervention through family planning by educating people on contraception methods and empowering women by enhancing female education are important steps towards reducing problems associated with overpopulation in Uganda and decreasing poverty.

Mayra Vega

Photo: Google

Family Planning

Women are the key to smart family planning. By increasing access to sexual education and contraceptives, women gain the power to make decisions about their own health and the chances of economic success.

Kamla is a 22-year-old female from Gaya, India. She is a domestic helper and lives in a single room shanty with her husband and young daughter. She does not want another child anytime soon because she feels financially unable to care for one. However, she does not have access to information about contraceptives. Increasing access to information about sexual health should be a priority for four main reasons.

  1. Uncontrolled population growth is an economic barrier
    Nearly all population growth occurs in the developing world, and high fertility is an expensive burden on economies of these countries. High population growth limits opportunities for economic growth and increases health risks for both women and children. Quality of life suffers due to limited access to education, nutrition, employment and scarce resources such as clean water.
  2. Women want control over their fertility
    Surveys in developing countries suggest that 10 to 40 percent of women want to spread out or limit childbirth but do not have access to contraception. This demonstrates an unmet need for birth control. The biggest barriers for women are lack of knowledge and concerns of undesirable health effects.
  3. Quality of life is enhanced
    Family planning improves the lives of both women and children. Reducing the fertility rate would save many women from dying during childbirth. In developing countries, maternal mortality rates are 20 times higher than in developed countries. Increased access to contraceptives also benefits children. Children born fewer than two years apart are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as children born further apart. Being unable to spread out pregnancies also interferes with breast-feeding, which has a crucial role in child nutrition.
  4. Gender equality is advanced
    Improvements in gender equality result from the power that contraceptives give women. Teen pregnancies interfere with education and unwanted pregnancies at any life stage interfere with a woman’s economic power. Giving women control over their bodies and family size allows them to make smarter economic decisions for themselves and their family.

The Challenge Initiative is a $42 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote reproductive health in developing countries. A previous initiative funded by this foundation showed promise in increasing contraceptive access in certain cities in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and India.

Based on rigorous data collected from the earlier initiative, The Challenge Initiative will use demand-based methods and partnerships with cities in order to implement successful programs in a variety of locations. If philanthropic organizations continue to invest in this solution, people – especially women – around the world will soon reap the benefits of family planning.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

World Population Day

Tuesday, July 11 was World Population Day, and leaders from around the globe met in London to review how much progress is being made in giving women deciding power in their pregnancies to meet global development goals.

Established as an observed day by the U.N. in 1990, World Population Day commemorates continuing efforts to empower women through gender equality initiative and access to safe contraceptives – both are tools to reduce global poverty.

July 11 also coincided with the 2017 Family Planning Summit, which was held in London and was organized by the United Nations Population Fund, the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here are four ways various countries and organizations observed World Population Day:

  1. The Central Luzon region of the Philippines commemorated the day by highlighting the importance of women’s empowerment as a benefit to communities. Activities and coordination with local government emphasized the importance of advocating for women’s choice in policymaking. Hamis Kigwangalla, Tanzania’s deputy minister of health, community development and gender, led the nation in observing WPD. The theme of the observance was the same theme as it was for the year: “Family Planning: Empowering People and Developing Nations.”Education on various contraceptive methods was provided, with an emphasis on family planning as a means of addressing health and rights for women at home and globally.
  2. The Girls Empowerment Movement (GEM) observed World Population Day in partnership with Good Food Brampton and IMPACT Leaders Fund on July 22. The organization hosted a workshop which educated participants on integrating sustainability into everyday life. According to its website, GEM connects youth in the Peel region of Canada to mentoring, leadership and empowerment opportunities.
  3. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commemorated World Population Day by attending the Family Planning Summit in London. The summit stressed the importance of providing access to safe contraceptives to ensure that women are empowered to achieve greater stability, contribute towards global prosperity and increase their quality of life.“Longer-term, more innovative research and development needs to be done to create new contraceptives that meet more of women’s needs,” Melinda Gates said in her speech at the summit.“If you put these innovations together, the future looks promising. Women get the contraceptives they need when they need them. As a result, they have more opportunities, raise healthy children, and build more prosperous families and communities,” Gates said.
  4. The Gambia also officially commemorated World Population Day with a meeting in Sanyang Village. The government placed an emphasis on the relationship between population and the reduction of poverty and national development. The event was organized with the participation of the Health Promotion Directorate and the United Nations Population Fund.

Providing women in developing countries with access to contraceptives empowers them to be economically independent and contributes to global prosperity and development.

Hannah Pickering

Photo: Flickr

children_in_poverty
Education around the world is imperative, but especially in developing countries where education can improve communities and the lives of people who are a part of them.

In 2015, 91 percent of children across the developing world were enrolled in primary school. Although there are more children in school now than ever before, there are still millions of children around the world that are not enrolled in school.

The best ways improve enrollment rates for children in poverty is to focus on the issues that cause children to drop out of school, which includes social, economic and health issues.

According to Dr. Cantor, a psychologist who specializes in childhood trauma, students in schools can do well if the issues they face are dealt with head on.

In addition to fundraising campaigns that provide for school buildings, supplies and uniforms it is also important to target the underlying issues above. Here are some innovative ways to help keep children in poverty enrolled:

  1. School-based deworming programs. According to the Huffington Post, an 80-cent deworming pill reduces students’ absence by 25 percent. These pills keep students healthy while also increasing their attendance in school.
  2. Malaria prevention. Another innovative way to keep children in poverty enrolled is through malaria prevention. Malaria infection has a direct impact on students’ attendance. A study found that a student who suffers from five or more malaria attacks scores 15 percent lower on school-based tests.
  3. Emergency and disaster response. When a natural disaster occurs it is usually difficult or unsafe for students to travel to school, especially if the infrastructure of the school is damaged or does not have running water. Finding effective ways to respond to disasters will increase the likelihood that students attend school during these instances.
  4. Contraception and family planning services. Each year 15 million teenage girls become mothers. Pregnancy is the reason young girls drop out of school in 50 percent of cases. Providing contraception is an effective way to keep young girls from getting pregnant and staying in school.

These innovative ways to keep children in poverty in school focus on issues children may face outside of school, but they can make a huge difference in students’ attendance and ability to stay in school.

 

Jordan Connell

Sources: Huffington Post, A Life You Can Save, The New York Times
Photo: Flickr

reproductive_health

Only governments can ensure that Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is achieved within their nations. While it is widely regarded to be making strides with reproductive health services, it is important to take note of the following changes to ensure so that new era of services can emerge:

1. Domestic Financing
The Universal Health Coverage goal allows everyone access to health services regardless of financial hardship. Pursuing this goal often leads to dramatic health financing reforms, but the key is to give rise to national insurance initiatives that allow health budgets to be spent on strategic purchasing of health services, rather than on keeping the doors open at public facilities alone.

2. Cost-effective Service Package
Few services are as cost-effective for both health and economic development as contraception. Thus, contraception must be prioritized for universal access. It would be imperative to place importance on measurable health outcomes, or possibly the Sustainable Development Goals.

3. Making UHC Work in the Low-Level Private Sector
Lower-level private facilities, which are often a lifeline to communities, should not be forgotten in public financing reforms. This will prevent a wider spread of coverage to communities that need the types of services that accompany the lower-level private facilities.

4. Advocating Financing by Doing
In countries that have not taken strides with the UHC, organizations can still contribute to progress through proof-of-concept financial projects like large-scale voucher programs to remove financial barriers. All types of health providers (faith-based, for-profit or public) need to be quality-assured for the services they offer.

5. Disrupting the Status Quo
Youth, women, tech-savvy entrepreneurs, health workers, civil society and the private sector will all be the influencers to drive change within family panning over the next 15 years. It is important to welcome new voices to the debates and meetings of importance. Frankness will be key to change, by dropping euphemisms and vague terms there will less trickery and more discussion of the topics that need to be discussed. Even the term “family planning” was created to avoid the associated taboo of the world’s abortion and contraception.

Investment in the health, education and rights of young people, and the alignment of related policies, is critical as it enables productivity and economic growth and the better spread and knowledge of reproductive health services is key to that.

– Alysha Biemolt

Sources: AllAfrica, Impatient Optimists, World Bank
Photo: myScience.org

mobile_family_planning
Janani, an affiliate of DKT International, has started a mobile family planning project. Twenty outreach teams in vans provide family planning services to rural and hard-to-reach areas in India. This helps expand access to family planning options.

The vans specifically visit regions where family planning is unavailable and where birth rates are exceptionally high, like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. According to the last India National Family Health Survey in 2005-2006, the average birth rate in Bihar was 4.0 children and the average birth rate in Uttar Pradesh was 3.82 children. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have the highest and second highest birth rates in all of India. Even so, the mobile family planning project can help women postpone or eliminate the option of pregnancy.

Janani offers IUDs, tubal litigation, condoms, oral contraceptives, injectables and emergency contraceptives for women. Additionally, the project offers non-scalpel vasectomies for men. This project helps promote long-term contraceptives, like the IUD, and permanent methods, like tubal litigation and vasectomies.

Doctors, nurses/midwives, van coordinators, attendants and drivers all make up each team. About four to nine people are in each van to serve Indian communities. The vans have a counseling chamber, audio-visual equipment and medicines and equipment needed for IUD insertion. The nurse/midwives are trained for counseling and IUD insertion in Patna at the Surya Clinic and Training Centre, which is owned by Janani.

The teams in each van serve around 10 to 15 new clients and about five to eight follow-up clients per day. Each team also makes up to 15 days of visits per month. Janani serves between 2,000 and 3,000 new clients and 1,000 and 1,500 follow-up clients each month. While it is important to care for new clients, it is also beneficial to conduct follow-up appointments with previous clients.

Janani aims to help women and men in rural and low-income areas. Improved access to family planning can help individuals who do not want to have children. Additionally, this could help keep more children out of poverty, considering that women may not want to have children if they are in a low-income household. Furthermore, this could help address the issue of overpopulation in India. Solutions such as mobile family planning are innovative and reach individuals who previously may not have access to family planning options.

Ella Cady

Sources: DKT International, Impatient Optimists
Photo: Impatient Optimists

Thailand: An Experiment in Family Planning
In Thailand in 1974 most families had seven children each, establishing an average growth rate of 3.3 percent. Having upwards of seven children put many women at risk for pregnancy related deaths and often led to many children being raised in mother-less homes. With such a high growth rate, much of Thailand’s population was quickly descending into poverty as there was not enough money and there were too many mouths to feed.

In order to combat this decline Mechai Viravaidya decided to start at the root of the issue, the women who had no control over how many children they would bear. After discussing family planning with several women, they decided that providing a pill was a great option for some women. However, this only covered around 20 percent of the population.

This did not hinder them.

Adapting the Coca-Cola model, Viravaidya and his team sought out well-respected individuals in each community to provide locals with family planning advice and devices, primarily birth control pills and condoms. It was the condom that took off. They were sold at local stores, on floating markets, handed out by the police, given to children in school, handed out in key chains, they were taking the nation by storm.

Soon, the team met some push-back from the religious community, but after talking with leaders, several monks actually blessed the condoms and contraceptives with holy water, thus making them something that everyone could utilize without feeling as if they were sinning. They then went to the military, which helped to advise local populations on the risks of HIV and AIDS, and they handed out condoms at traffic stops. Mechai became Thailand’s own “Mr. Condom.”

They soon went to the schools to educate children on the risks associated with unprotected sex, but they made it enjoyable. The team developed games that promoted family planning initiatives and condom balloon competitions, and in five years trained over 300,000 teachers in family planning methods. This meant that students now had people to talk to should they have any questions, and were thus able to advise their own parents on proper methods of family planning.

By 2000 the average amount of children per family was 1.5 and the growth rate had dropped to 0.5 percent, which meant that there were fewer individuals living in poverty and more children with greater opportunities for education and work in the future.

As the AIDS epidemic hit Thailand, their contraceptive commotion kicked into high gear, they were providing education on safe sex throughout all the villages, targeting high school students who then taught younger students, who then taught their parents. Thanks to the safe-sex brigade, Captain Condom and several other key players, the AIDS rate in Thailand went down by 90 percent, and the World Bank estimates that 7.7 million lives were saved because of this.

Thailand should act as an example for the rest of the world. Currently, sex and contraceptives have such a taboo upon them that several kids are petrified to even ask questions about basic safety precautions. They are afraid of judgement from store clerks and doctors, but if we normalize sex as a part of culture, we allow people to be more open and thus safer. If we take away the taboo associated with sex and perhaps even hand out free condoms and have free consultations with nurses and midwives about pills, we can reduce the rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs in our own nations. Although Thailand is a relatively small nation, it has shown us that small changes can make a huge difference.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: TED talks, Advocates for Youth
Photo: Flickr

sexual_health
There are more than 1 billion teenagers worldwide. Seventy percent of them live in developing countries. According to the Demographic and Health Surveys and the AIDS Indicators Survey, the average age that young people in impoverished countries have their first sexual encounter is, at the lowest, age 16 or younger, and, at the highest, 19.6.

Just like in developed nations, with sexual activity comes the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Unlike wealthier nations, these impoverished countries lack adequate healthcare. In places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, AIDs is an epidemic. Two-thirds of those infected are adolescents.

Adolescent girls run the greatest risk for sexual and reproductive health threats. A young girl that becomes pregnant who lacks access to healthcare faces many serious health risks. Pregnancies, child-birth and abortions are all perilous. The likelihood that a 15-year-old girl in a developed nation could ultimately die of maternal complications is 1/3800. Compare this to just 1/150 in the developed world.

Meet Reem: she is a 15-year-old girl living as a refugee in a camp. Her two month-old baby is underweight because it was born prematurely and because Reem was never taught how to breast feed. She has no one to help her, her husband was killed before the baby was born, and her mother was separated from her in the national conflict.

In other instances, girls marry older men. Hibo is a 13-year-old girl living in a Somalian refugee camp. The oldest of five children, she is responsible for helping her mother care for the family. Her parents are planning to marry Hibo to a wealthy landowner that will bring the family much-needed money and honor. She has been told that it is her duty to marry, serve her husband, and bear him children.

Married women like Hibo are encouraged to have children as soon as possible. Their social status and identity are associated with raising children. Being childless is frowned upon. Unfortunately, wedding older men who have had previous partners bring the potential for STDs.

Young people also face the danger of sexual violence. A national survey in Swaziland revealed that one-third of girls aged 13-24 suffered sexual abuse before the age of 18. Boys face abuse as well, but are reported as being less likely to reach out for help from healthcare providers.

Although young people are getting married at an older age, the amount of premarital intercourse is increasing. At the same time, contraceptive use for all teens is low. In Sub-Saharan Africa, contraceptives are used by a low of 3% of sexually active adolescents in Rwanda and a high 46% in Burkina Faso.

Due to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, more youth have greater access to formal education. Health officials decided that school-based sexual/reproductive health programs were the perfect way to educate adolescents. Yet, a survey of these programs and their effects have produced varied results. Not all adolescents attend school, and the funding for these programs is not always there.

The Save the Children organization understands that if there are no programs that specifically reach young people with sexual health programs and education, they will never access the care and knowledge they need. The organization has set up teen-accessible places to teach them about safe sex and offer health services.

Their methods and the continuation of school-based programs have been yielding promising results in places like Mexico, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic. Young people are taking more measures to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: Guttmacher Institute, Women and Children First (UK), Alliance for International Youth Development
Photo: The Times

Family-Planning-Reduces-PovertyLatin America and the Caribbean provide valuable examples of how family planning can reduce poverty.

Family planning involves strategies to delay childbirth, space births over time and avoid unintended pregnancies. When women and men can control the size of their families, they are more likely to have the resources to support their children.

A recent report, “Family Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Achievements of 50 Years,” shares many success stories of family planning research and programs in this region.

The current contraceptive prevalence rate in this region is 74%. This is one of the highest rates within the developing world. The rest of the world can learn from success in Latin America.

With the rise in contraception use, Latin America has seen an increase in educational participation, a decrease in the infant mortality rate and a more stable economic climate.

A few of the most effective strategies include the work of dynamic NGOs with new methods of family planning, financial and technical assistance from USAID, the development of local expertise, and availability and access to research data.

The family planning strategies developed from clinic-based efforts include direct delivery of contraceptives to community-based awareness efforts involving mass media.

The use of mass media to change cultural norms and attitudes proved to be an effective strategy. The use of radio and television helped increase awareness about family planning and strengthen support. Traditionally, families in the region had many children and did not use contraception. This put a strain on limited resources. For families to accept family planning methods, this required a change in belief about how families should be created and maintained.

In Mexico, popular singers, Tatiana and Johnny, recorded songs and produced music videos that supported responsible sex. For example, the song titled “Detente” or “Wait” in English, suggesting ideas to delay childbirths or wait to have sex.

While this region of the world has achieved great success and can serve as a model for areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, there is still work to be done. Adolescent fertility rates remain high, and young, rural women of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have access to family planning resources. There is a need for continued research and commitment to reach all people.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Carolina Population Center, Carolina Population Center 2
Photo: YouTube